Don’t Be A Victim

By Dave Welch • December 8th, 2012

Car Buying Scam

Recently the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) issued an alert about an online car-buying cyber scam. The FBI said that between 2008 and 2010, IC3 received almost 14,000 consumer complaints from victims of online auto-buying scams, with the losses totaling nearly $44.5 million.

Here’s what the FBI said about the scam:

  1. Consumers find a vehicle they like — often at a below-market price — on the web, and likely hijacked from another website.
  2. The buyer contacts the seller, usually through an email address in the ad to indicate their interest. The seller responds via email, often with a hard-luck story about why they want to sell the vehicle and at such a good price.
  3. In the email, the seller asks the buyer to move the transaction to the website of another online company for security reasons and then offers a bogus buyer-protection plan in the name of a major Internet company such as AutoTrader, craigslist or ebay. Through the new spoofed website, the buyer receives an invoice and is instructed to wire their payment to a specified account. Sometimes the criminals pose as customer service representatives in a live chat to answer questions from buyers.
  4. Once the funds are wired, the buyer is asked to fax a receipt to show that the transaction has taken place. And then the seller and buyer agree upon a time for the delivery of the vehicle.
  5. Typically the ad the consumer sees is either completely phony or was hijacked from another website. The buyer is asked to move from a legitimate website to a spoofed website where it’s easier for the criminal to conduct business. The buyer protection plan offered as part of the deal is bogus. And the buyer is asked to fax the seller proof of the transaction so the crooks know when the funds are available for stealing.

By the time the buyer realizes they’ve been scammed, the criminal is long gone with their money.

Don’t let this happen to you! Just like you watch road signs when driving, here are signs of trouble you should be wary of:

  • Ads show vehicles at prices that are just too good to be true
  • Sellers want to move transactions from the original website to another website
  • Seller requests funds to be wired before finalization of the transaction
  • A buyer protection program is offered but it is from a website that is different than that of the advertised auto
  • Seller refuses to let you inspect the car or meet in person
  • Seller claims to need to finalize transaction quickly because they are in the military about to be deployed, are moving, the car belonged to someone who recently died

Being an alert consumer can help you avoid an expensive and stressful mistake, and remember to check with the Better Business Bureau.


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